Jane and the Chalet School

I was tired, brain-fogged, and needed something light and undemanding to read. I decided that the next Chalet School book in Elinor M Brent-Dyer’s lengthy series would be ideal. So I selected the next one even though it was only about a month since I finished reading ‘The Chalet School Reunion’.

‘Jane and the Chalet School’ is 51st in the original series, although my copy is a paperback one from my late mother’s collection, and is numbered 55; the Armada abridged versions re-numbered the series somewhat, turning a few books into two volumes. Happily, though, the later books in the series were not cut, at least according to this useful page about the Chalet School books, comparing the originals to the Armada versions.

I must have read this book in my teens, and perhaps re-read it at some point, but I have no memory of the story at all, so that made it even more enjoyable. Jane, who starts school (unusually) in the summer term, has been educated by a governess up to this point. Her parents are touring actors, so she’s travelled widely and is friendly - perhaps over-friendly, at times - to all.

However, she makes an immediate enemy out of Jack Lambert, who is told to move to a different dormitory at the start of term. Jack is a likeable girl in many respects but she is also hot tempered, and apparently holds grudges. Nor is she very rational, deciding that she loathes Jane, although it’s clearly not her fault that Jack has to move.

Most of the book is then fairly standard Chalet School fare; we see Jane in some lessons, we overhear staffroom conversations, and we get insights into Jack’s personality as well as that of Jane. Unlike some new girls Jane adapts easily to life at the school, despite her over-enthusiastic way of addressing everyone, adults and peers.

Inevitably there are dramas - literally as well as metaphorically, in this book! - and Jane has the opportunity to do something courageous for Jack. Jack herself begins to mature somewhat, aided by her favourite mentor Len Maynard.

While some of the Chalet School books are a bit ‘samey’, I liked this one very much and thought it covered new ground. I don’t recall any other girls being the daughters of actors before, and while there have been many examples of irrational dislikes or enmities, they haven’t previously involved otherwise straightforward and pleasant girls.

Definitely recommended to anyone who likes the series, or who enjoys this kind of mid-20th century teenage school story. It stands alone, as all Brent-Dyer’s books do, although most of the characters were introduced in earlier books, and there are many references to earlier incidents in the life of the Chalet School.

'Jane and the Chalet School' is not an easy book to find second-hand, even in the Armada version. However, there's a 'Girls Gone By' edition produced fairly recently, which may be more widely available.

Review copyright 2017 Sue's Book Reviews

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